Some people say greyhounds and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly. Others approach the whole idea with fear. The opinions are all over the map, but all you want is a straight answer!
So, are greyhounds good with kids? Yes! Greyhounds are docile, extremely sweet, and have the calmest demeanor of all dogs.
A better question to ask is how well a greyhound might fit into your particular family over the next decade, because that’s how long you can figure on having him. This essential guide to greyhounds and kids of every age will give you a clearer picture of what to expect.
For 23 years greyhounds have graced my home, and shared all the changes we’ve been through. Let’s take a look at typical characteristics of children, and how your role as leader of the “pack (because that’s how your dog sees your family)” will change year by year:
Are Greyhounds Safe Around Infants: Bringing Home Baby
When I returned home from the hospital with my first newborn, Peaches was ecstatic to see me…until I revealed what was under the blanket in my arms. One look at the baby, and she fled the room. It didn’t seem like a good start.
Greyhounds and babies simply don’t know what to make of one another. Your best friend for the first 2 years will be the playpen. That way, you always have an immediate place to put your baby where he (and the greyhound) will be safe, and still be able to observe and get to know each other. It also gives the baby a place from which he can watch and learn from his parents the correct way to interact with the dog in everyday life.
Your next concern will be finding time to spend with your greyhound. Like with a child, a suddenly-neglected dog may become jealous, and may misbehave to get your attention. Every day, sit with your baby beside your greyhound, keeping your baby’s hands a safe distance away from your dog’s face. Babies lack fine motor skills and impulse control, and it’s so easy for a tiny hand to shoot out with no warning, poking the poor, sensitive greyhound. Getting poked in the eye is no way to begin a friendship!
(Speaking of getting poked in the eye, some parents refuse to correct a baby who is getting rough. A baby who is allowed to bop Dad in the face, pull his ear, shove his hand in Mom’s mouth and yank her hair is simply not going to know better when it comes to the dog. It’s an all-too-common story: the dog is ejected from his home for interpreting little Free Spirit’s “explorative play” as aggression…which – sorry – it is. If you feel this type of “play” is important, please do not get any pets until your children is out of this phase.)
How to Baby-Proof Your Greyhound, and Greyhound-Proof Your Baby
First, let Baby observe how to approach the greyhound safely. Be sure your greyhound is awake when you begin this session. Your child needs to be much older before he is allowed to approach any pet while it is asleep. “Let sleeping dogs lie” is a saying that exists for a good reason. Like any of us, a dog is not always in the same mood.
Curl your hand into a loose fist, and extend it slowly, palm down, to your greyhound. You probably don’t usually approach him this way, but it is critical that your child learn the safe way to introduce himself to a dog. You will, most likely, be rewarded with a gentle bump of your dog’s nose (the greyhound kiss). Now, you can move on to petting the dog.
A good rule for little children is to pet only with fingertips. This is good general advice for anyone petting a greyhound. They have thin coats and thin skin, without a lot of fat under it, making them much more physically sensitive than other breeds. This also means their nerves are closer to the surface, so just use fingertips for now. As your child gets older and has earned the dog’s trust, they will find their way together as to what kind of affection works. Pet the top of his head, and down his back. If he’s laying on his side, give him a gentle scratch on the chest or pet his belly. When the baby starts to get squirmy, he’s letting you know that he’s had enough for now.
Greyhounds who get Attention Behave Better with Children
The other important thing you need to schedule at this time is 10 minutes a day to just hang out with your greyhound. I realized fairly early in my son’s life that Peaches and I weren’t having our cuddle sessions anymore, and I felt terrible! Right from that point on, I made a commitment to schedule it in. The best time for me was right after I put the baby to bed for the night, about 7:30PM. Newborns, of course, aren’t on a schedule, so at first I had to make it a priority, getting right to it after settling the baby down for a nap. Sometimes you don’t get much more than 10 minutes!
Be sure to keep your “cruising” baby away from your greyhound. When babies learn to walk, they need to grab onto things to steady themselves. Your greyhound is just the right height, but he’s not a piece of furniture, so don’t let this happen. Even if your greyhound is tolerant of this, he is still likely to walk away and let the baby fall on his face. My daughter used to love leaning on our big greyhound, Shannon, to snuggle him. She was more like 3-4 years old at the time, not a baby; and would still lose her balance when he walked off. That was good for at least one bloody nose a week.
The key ideas at this age are introduction, observation from a safe distance, and constant supervision.
How are Greyhounds with Toddlers: 12-18 months
Babies of this age have the following tedencies which need to be watched around the greyhound: impatience, emotional volatility, high energy, need for one-word commands (which probably will be ignored or met with “NO!”), treating people (and pets) as objects. Luckily, they are also easily distracted.
If your greyhound has been with you up till this point, then you have, at least, trained your child to touch the dog gently (although you still can’t trust him). If you’re bring home a new greyhound and have a 12-to-18-month-old in the house, even greater separation is definitely in order! I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of households where everyone just roams free-range and everything’s copasetic, but don’t run the risk. It’s not worth it. It takes effort to set up a safe and harmonious environment for the whole family, for the long run; and it’s your job to be the adult, even if it makes you feel like you’re “spoiling the fun.”
Don’t put away that playpen yet! It’s a fantastic place for your baby to have quiet time, explore books, play with toys; especially during this time when it may be harder to get him to nap. Observation of the family interacting with the greyhound continues, as do the sessions with the greyhound. I would discourage you from teaching your child to feed the dog treats quite yet. It’s better, for now, if your greyhound is still expecting only affection when he sees that little hand coming toward him.
During this stage, remember to never leave your baby unsupervised with your greyhound or any other dog, for the safety of both. Even if your toddler’s intentions toward your dog are good and loving, he is still very uncoordinated. Be sure to keep the baby at a distance from the dog whenever you are out of arm’s reach. Things can happen so quickly.
Greyhounds with 2-Year-Olds: Busy Bodies
Twos may be terrible, but children this age are usually fairly darling with their greyhounds. Still, your 2-year-old cannot yet conceive that his beloved pet would ever hurt him, so supervision must continue.
Your child will be much more active by now, so be sure that his play area is well-away from your greyhound’s space. Two-year-olds are fond of all kinds of fast play, whether it’s running around, twirling in circles to get dizzy, throwing things to see if he can hit the ceiling, jumping, etc.. Things can get rough, and you don’t want your greyhound in the same room.
Real disasters can occur very easily, like your dizzy child falling over on the dog, or the dog getting bonked on the head with something the child was flinging around. If you continue to diligently, consistently supervise ALL interactions between your child and your dog, you will never have to face the heartbreak of an injured dog or a bitten child.
if you haven’t taught your child that he is not to open the door to the outside without someone watching over him, this is a point you want to drive home now. You also do not want him cracking open the door to peer outside, because your greyhound could skinny past him and get loose in an instant.
Another reason to make sure your greyhound has a toddler-free space is so he is not being irritated by the child. This age can be a real make-or-break time for the forming relationship between child and dog. A healthy two-year-old is bound to make a certain amount of noise, in addition to the frenzied activity-level mentioned earlier. Your greyhound may find this unpleasant and disturbing. After all, greyhounds do love to nap all the time, and can become edgy and grumpy if they feel like they always have to beware of flying objects.
Greyhounds with 3-Year-Olds: Little Helpers
This is an age where your kids really love to do what you’re doing. At this stage, you can bring your child on board as a helper in tasks with the dog. Before a walk, your three-year-old can bring you the leash. You can teach him how to fasten the greyhound’s coat. If you still have the very soft hairbrush from when your child was an infant, he can brush the dog with that one, while you use the dog brush. All this will help develop a bond of trust and love between your child and your dog.
Three-year-olds can become insecure, getting upset sometimes when you need to go out, and the child has to stay home. You can remind him that his dong will still be here. That might sound silly to you, but it means a lot to a little one.
If your child is having a bad day, or is feeling upset about something, you can suggest the two of you sit down with the greyhound, and pet him for a while. Studies have shown that petting a dog calms a person, and even can reduce blood pressure. This teaches your child a very positive way to deal with negative feelings.
Oh, and NO shooting Nerf darts at the dog. This is one of these things that we can’t believe we actually have to tell a child, but we do. One shot at the dog, and the Nerf gun goes bye-bye.
Greyhounds with Children Aged 4 – 5 Years: Leash Manners
Your child has more freedom now than ever before, and heightened awareness will be needed to make sure your greyhound doesn’t get loose. By now, your child may be free to nip out the door whenever he wants to, to play in the yard or run to the mailbox; but he is too young to be responsible about securing doors. An even greater problem may be the gate. Your child, by now, has gone next door with Dad to retrieve the ball hit over the fence so often, it’s become reflexive to head over there by himself, leaving the gate open behind him. He is not mature enough to think beyond himself to safeguarding the dog.
He may also begin insisting that he is old enough to walk the greyhound by himself, which is a bad idea. A 4/5-year-old is simply too small to be truly “in charge” in that situation, and the greyhound knows it. The child, however, has learned to be relentless at this stage, so let him know this is a good time to start training for when he is big enough to walk such a big dog. Give your child some “walking lessons” in a small part of your yard, where the limited space will help discourage the dog from bolting. Your greyhound should already have good leash-manners; your child, on the other hand, is a different story. You might be, too, for that matter! Do you typically just leash up the dog and then let him amble every which way, pulling ahead here, doubling back to sniff there? This is a disaster in the making for you, as well as your child. A startled greyhound, if leashed, will run tight, little circles around you and hip-check you behind the knees. Now is the time to get everybody on the same page, so no one gets hurt.
4- and 5-Year-Old Children Still Need Plenty of Supervision with Greyhounds
When you walk your greyhound, be sure to have him “heel.” That is, he should walk to your left, partially behind you; but not so far behind you, that you would need to turn your head to see him. Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that for you to know, and to pass on to your child. Complete info on correct, safe dog-walking technique is easily found on the internet. Don’t hesitate to review!
The other thing your child may insist on is that he can be less supervised with the dog. While you no longer need to be right next to him like when he was a baby, you should still not leave them alone together in a room. Your child will promise to be gentle, but he may not be able to follow through, as moods can still change quickly at this age.
Encourage your child to sit near the greyhound while doing some gentle activity, such as looking through books. Have him keep his distance with “crashy” toys, like cars, marbles, and blocks. You also want to monitor toys with a million small pieces, such as Lego. Our greyhound, Shannon, used to love to watch us play board games on the rug. He would even get up and change his position for the best possible view.
If you suspect that your greyhound has swallowed a small piece of Lego (1 or 2 nubs), give him a piece of bread, and relax – This, too, shall pass (3+ nubs – call the vet).
Greyhounds with Children Aged 6-9: Buddies
If you have been wotking with your child, up to this point, on walking your greyhound (and the dog is a calm one), you may start letting your child man the leash for part of the walk. It’s still not going to be really safe for your child to take the greyhound for a walk by himself until he is physically bigger, and old enough to have more situational awareness.
One of the great joys at this age is doing homework next to the greyhound. They are gentle, calming companions after a tough day at school, and somehow make all that homework seem not so bad.
Continue to keep an eye out for doors and gates left open. If your child is still doing this, consider applying some consequences. Your child may not be mature enough to believe that his neglect could lead to never seeing his dog again. It’s better for him to lose some video time, stand in the corner, or have to go to bed an hour early; than to learn the hard way.
If your child’s personality is evolving as a gentle one, you’ll have a lot less to worry about now. Still, keep tabs on what’s going on whenever your child and dog are together. There are a lot of dizzy ballerinas and losing pitchers among this age group, and you want to make sure your greyhound is out of the line of fire. If your children love to wrestle, firmly forbid that activity in any room where your greyhound is present.
Greyhounds are Great with Children Aged 10 and Up: A Family Decision
If you have older children, be sure to include them in the conversation about whether or not to get a greyhound. After all, that may be the last dog of their childhood. For most children, a greyhound is a great fit. Some, however, may be disappointed in a dog who doesn’t want to spend endless hours chasing a tennis ball.
Some families solve this by getting another dog, in addition to their greyhound. This can be a great solution, as long as you choose a dog who enjoys having a canine buddy. My greyhounds get along best with golden retrievers, calmer labs, other hounds, and easygoing mutts. They haven’t done as well with German shepherds and little dogs who jump up on them and scratch their tender chests.
Once your youngest children are teens, this is less of an issue. Teens and greyhounds have the same favorite activity – Hanging out! Also, your kids probably aren’t spending as much time at home by now, and will be out in the world before you know it. Any dog you get at this stage of the game will be “your dog,” but I’m sure your teen will be happy with your choice.